May Measurement Month 2018: finding the millions of people with undetected hypertension

One in 10 people in the UK are living with undetected and potentially life-threatening high blood pressure. What can be done to find and treat these people before some develop cardiovascular disease? 

1 May 2018, by Steve Robinson

Man with blood pressure cuff attached to a machine

Hypertension is endemic in the UK. The scale of the numbers involved is breathtaking: over 9.5 million people are on GPs’ high blood pressure registers1.

More alarming still is the number that aren’t. If a typical group of 100 patients were to walk through the doors of a general practice in England, 24 would have hypertension but only 14 would hold a diagnosis, and with it access to treatment and advice they need2.

That means one person in every 10 in the UK lives with undetected hypertension. In England, that’s 5.7 million people walking around without a diagnosis, with hundreds of thousands more across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (more precise estimates on how many aren’t routinely available in the devolved nations).

This matters because high BP is associated with at least half of all heart attacks and strokes. And it’s a major risk factor for chronic kidney disease, heart failure and cognitive decline3.

Yet checks to identify and diagnose high BP are relatively straightforward – so long as there is access to ambulatory or home BP monitoring – and treatment is very effective: every 10mmHg reduction in systolic BP reduces the risk of a major cardiovascular event by 20%4.

In fact, we know that better hypertension management in England could, over three years, avoid 14,500 strokes, saving up to £202m in healthcare costs, and 9,710 heart attacks, saving up to £72m4. Similar stats are now available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


It’s numbers like these that prompted the International Society of Hypertension and the World Hypertension League last year to expand the long-running World Hypertension Day into May Measurement Month, a global awareness campaign highlighting better access to BP checks to reduce the impact of hypertension on the health of nations.

During May 2018, the campaign urges patients to #checkyourpressure and the BHF has leant its support to this call.

So how can you help? The BHF has many professional resources to help you better identify, test, diagnose and manage patients in your area.

Our BP: How can we do better? resource – recently updated with the latest data for England – charts the potential for better detection and management across all 195 CCGs in England.

You can see how your area’s CCGs compare to the England average, get estimates on the benefits of better BP management in terms of reduced cardiac events and deaths in your area, and read practical next steps for general practices and CCGs looking to make improvements. There's a report for Wales too.

Information for your patients

We recently commissioned a series of videos to explore the huge impact a blood pressure diagnosis – or a missed one – can have on someone’s life, and why timely detection and management are so important. You can view one of these videos below.

The BHF also has a wealth of patient information resources once a diagnosis is made: from our 10 minutes… guide to high blood pressure, to the more in-depth health information series booklet, Blood Pressure, and a package of helpful articles via our Heart Matters magazine and our patient information webpages.

For commissioners and clinical leads, our CVD Challenge series presents more data on medical risk factors including BP and how tackling them differently can help save lives and reduce NHS pressures.

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The BHF is also now assessing applications for the second phase of its BP Award Programme, which provides funding for health organisations to develop, test and implement innovative community schemes to improve the detection and management of high blood pressure across the UK. These aim to improve aspects such as accessibility to testing, support for self-management and add to the evidence base on effective practice.

Detecting high BP is but one step. One in three patients with a diagnosis still aren’t treated to target, and remain at elevated risk of cardiac events and other comorbidities.

This month, ask yourself what part you and your colleagues can play in finding the millions of people who need testing and treating to lower their risk.

You can share your thoughts, challenges and successes via our LinkedIn Group.

Share your views now


1 NHS Digital, Quality and Outcomes Framework UK 2016/17

2 Public Health England data, BP: How can we do better? resource 2018

3 BHF CVD Statistics Factsheet UK 2018

4 The BHF 2018, The CVD Challenge in England